Racist Tweets 'Teachable Moment For America,' Says Schools Superintendent

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District and elected officials rallied to support Mount Vernon students on Friday.
District and elected officials rallied to support Mount Vernon students on Friday. Photo Credit: Zak Failla
Onlookers showed their support for the Mount Vernon basketball team.
Onlookers showed their support for the Mount Vernon basketball team. Photo Credit: Zak Failla
Residents came out to support Mount Vernon interim Superintendent Judith Johnson.
Residents came out to support Mount Vernon interim Superintendent Judith Johnson. Photo Credit: Zak Failla

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Mount Vernon officials, parents and teachers rallied around Interim Schools Superintendent Judith Johnson on Friday as she called for justice after Mahopac students acted inappropriately during and after a loss in the Section 1 championship semifinal.

Johnson said that both school districts are continuing the investigation into the Feb. 27 incident, which saw several Mahopac students – eight of whom have already been suspended and assigned sensitivity training – sharing racist Tweets after their school narrowly fell to the Knights 43-40.

Some of the tamer of the racist Tweets read, “That’s why you shouldn’t let monkeys out of their cages,” and “tough loss boys, but at least we can talk to our dads about it.” Another included a picture of pennies, intimating that it was a Mount Vernon family’s income.

According to Johnson and members of the basketball team, aside from the Tweets, there were racist comments from the other team, and the crowd, more than 400 strong, came dressed in all white, and turned their back when the Knights were introduced.

“That’s what they think of us,” Johnson said after going over the facts of the case in the Frederick Pierce Board Room. “These actions are being discussed around the country. This is a teachable moment for America.”

Representatives from Mount Vernon and Mahopac met with state officials from the Commissioner of Education’s Office on Thursday to outline how to best move forward.

The principals of each high school have agreed to meet to continue the investigation, and both Boards of Education will seek council with a third party to discuss the incident. Additionally, a meeting of both student governments has been arranged to determine how to use this as a teachable moment. Johnson is also planning to seek the opinion of the state Division of Human Rights to determine if there were any violations of the law.

The interim superintendent stood by her assertion that the Mahopac boys basketball team should also serve a full-year suspension, an outcome, which seems unlikely.

“We’re seeking legal guidance from our lawyers to see what litigation is available to us,’ she said. “We’re focusing on the law. Kids need to know that in Mahopac, if you break the law, you are going to be punished.”

Johnson, Mount Vernon varsity head coach Bob Cimmino and his team were praised by the audience and elected officials for attacking the issues head on and not ducking away from it. Mayor Ernest Davis said that this incident shows that society may have a larger problem on its hands.

“Thank you for standing up and being courageous. Is this an isolated incident, or a cancer that just showed itself. You have to look past this incident and connect some dots,” he said. “We may find that we, as a society, have a lot to get done.”

Brenda Crump, a member of the Mount Vernon Board of Education, said that the fight the district is putting up will be a good example for students.

“We have the opportunity to fuel or smother this incident, and we’ve chosen to smother it,” she said. “Our kids know that they are somebody and won’t let anybody treat them like nobody.”

Mount Vernon boys basketball team will face off against Union-Endicott at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday in Binghamton in the state tournament.

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Comments (23)

The racist tweets are deeply disturbing and it's sad that sports have separated people instead of bringing them together. However, Mt. Vernon High School is not without sin and the unparalleled violence that has taken place at the school over the years still leaves surrounding communities horrified. We are approaching the 20th anniversary of the murder of Shebule Jackson, a 17 year-old young man, who was brutally stabbed to death in the hallways of Mt. Vernon High School on October 25, 1994, prompting the need for metal detectors at the school. Please keep Shebule and his family in your prayers as we approach the anniversary of his passing.

Awwwwwwwww, come one norwood. Bringing up something that happened 20 years ago still does not justify the behavior of Mahopac students. It is so typical of people like you to bring up someone else's past to justify the behavior of those spawned devils at Mahopac HS. I'm sure that if the tweets were directed at Sandy Hook or Columbine Schools, you wouldn't bring up the heinous crimes that happened at those school. But then again, those were crimes that were committed by people who look like you. Nothing that happened at MVHS can compare to Columbine or Sandy Hook. Racist much?

There's no excuse for racism. One of the things that troubles me is that our kids are abusing all this technology to put this garbage out there. They don't seem to give it a second thought, even though it will come back to haunt them some day. I know we can't go backward with technology, but we have to get them to see that this texts and e-mails live forever.

HMMM…. AS I PONDER:

“STICKS AND STONES”
42 TOLERATED AND WON. His efforts earned the right for others, like myself, to fight back and reach my goal in a non-violent manner. The goal is called RESPECT.
WILL NAMES HURT YOU and force you into a losing position?
I believe taking the “victim” position will only lead to losing the SURVIVAL GAME.

Isn’t it strange how a SCHOOL DISTRICT can pay so much attention to tweets about a contest of ball bouncing and less attention to corruption within its organization?
I believe there should be more emphasis on teacher performance and student grade results, but less on political posturing which leads to power madness. ARE YOU RESPECTED?

If this school board really cared about the students, their attention would focus on improving the curriculum and getting rid of worthless teachers seeking a seat on the tenure gravy train. Is the Mount Vernon School superintendent attempting to springboard to national attention on the backs of basketball players? ARE YOU RESPECTED?
In my opinion, “MOUNT VERNON EXPOSED” HAS IT RIGHT!

Come to the realization that in the heat of battle, attention to personal feelings is the least priority for winning a contest of any kind. If name-calling disrupts your opponents’ game, is it fair to use it, take the penalty and win the game? I’m quite sure that both teams applied politically incorrect terms while attempting to achieve a win.

I believe twitter exposes the intolerance for losing to a basketball team consisting of another race. You, the tweeters of racial rhetoric, have proven that you are TRUE LOSERS of the game.
ARE YOU RESPECTED?

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”

VIKTOR E. FRANKL

A few years ago, during the early part of Judith Johnson's position of Superintendent, there was a violent riot at the Mount Vernon High School. Hundreds of students participated, three or four police departments were called in, and several students were arrested. Nothing more was reported after that incident. To his credit, Mayor Davis was quoted in the Journal News as saying the students who caused the riot should have been expelled. But because the Mt. Vernon BOE operates under a shroud of secrecy, no more information was released to the public.
And let's not forget the previous Superintendent, Welton Sawyer, who destroyed what should have been a quality education for the students. The corrupt BOE did nothing about it, while more than 50% of the students were failing.

Apparently there were also racist comments from the Mount Vernon side. But I have read that Mahopac had a confederate flag displayed in their seating area. This indicates that Mahopac kids came prepared to "start it", and it then escalated. The Mount Vernon kids were reacting to the show of racism. It was deplorable behavior by these Mahopac kids, and shows a complete lack of understanding of the sad history of racism in America.

I can relate to this Happy, I showed a home a second time in mahopac to a client who was african american and looking to purchase a 900k home and when we showed it the first time neighbors across the street took notice to that. they were fully qualified. the second vistit to the home there was a large confederate flag hanging across the street, mind you from a house that at best was worth about 250k... after seeing this obviously they did not want to consider purchasing here becuase of what they saw. i was mortified and felt disgusted of biggitry. i advised the agent and told her my client was going to put in an offer prior to this and advise the agent to tell her clients how the nieghbors killed a sale. the home is still on the market.
my question is why was the confederate flag allowed to be displayed and why didnt school officials have those patrons remove the flag.

happy days, it's called "poor home training". Racism is learned behavior.

The Mount Vernon kids also showed their lack of maturity by participating in the near riot. They should have walked away from it.

Huh? Are you kidding me? Do you really expect children to just walk away from situations such as this? MVHS showed a lot maturity. For if they didn't, there would be a lot of physically wounded children from both sides.

MY OH MY!
WELCOME TO THE USA
Kids acting like kids, and grown people acting like kids.
Come on people should the actions of few require all of this?
Punish those who are guilty and let it go. Acknowledge the fact that we live in a WORLD that thrives on name-calling and put-downs.
Does this really require politicians to butt into school affairs? Will this incident contribute to the resolution of a worldly problem?
Punish the offenders and move on and let the games continue.
The NFL is trying to clean up the foul language and name-calling.
What’s next, elimination of tackling and trading the pads for tutus?
In my opinion, some people are attempting to turn a school resolvable incident into political football.
School authorities do your jobs, eliminate the greedy politicians and try not to become one of them.

Stay focus Crypt, this is not the NFL. Is this what you are teaching your children? If these children are the future, it just proves that people like you will never change.

@cryptoguardian - as you may know, the Mt. Vernon School District is controlled by a "greedy politician", the city's Mayor Ernie.Davis. Davis should be staying out of this but instead he's doing what he enjoys idoing - playing the race card. With this event, he can divert attention away from his misappropriation of taxpayer's dollars.
As for Brenda Crump's comment about "smothering" this incident rather than "fueling" it - it looks like Davis is already adding fuel.

Bill, it's too late for you to blame someone for playing the race card. That was taken care of in the tweets. Sounds like you are now doing the same

@truthBtold - you may be right, I may be too late in blaming someone for playing the race card. Mt. Vernon Mayor Davis has been playing the race card for years and gets away with it every time. Because of Mayor Davis and what he has done to the city, the incident in Mahopac is merely a reflection of what the people in other parts of the state think and say about Mount Vernon.

What color are you? It makes all the difference